Do Rhinos Waltzing in Washington, D.C. Make Matters Seem Trivial?

Like proverbial bulls in china shops, elected rhinos roasting for misbehavior, morality miscues, and tax-dollar abuses continue to freely roam halls of the United States government.

After apologies to four sexual harassment victims were made public, Sen. Al Franken (D – MN) simply walked back in the US Senate building as if sexual misconduct woes are as trivial as paper-cuts. In a statement about the sexual probe’s basis, Sen. Franken claimed he is “embarrassed and ashamed” and that sexually harassing women is “not something I would intentionally do.”

The StarTribune chronicled three women with whom Sen. Franken allegedly played non-consensual grab-ass during three separate campaign functions in 2007, 2008, and 2010. The fourth victim of sexual impropriety by Sen. Franken is Los Angeles radio personality Leeann Tweeden who is forever portrayed sleeping, seated…while Mr. Franken cups her breasts without her knowledge. He wants us to believe that none of this is what he would “intentionally do”?

I believe in marvels of engineering, but…your hands? Your hands! Your hands somehow accidentally cradled a sleeping woman’s breasts while you were keeled at the waist and peering over your shoulder with an affixed smirk? That’s less magical and more morally bankrupt in context.  So, it could’ve been worse had he intended his sexual misconduct? I smell fear. I detect desperation.

I smell fear. I detect desperation.

In a stroke of contradiction, Sen. Franken apologized to Ms. Tweeden, saying “What my intention was doesn’t matter.” He acknowledged an “intention” in that revelation, going from unintentional to with intent. He continued, “What matters is that I am chained to that photo.” At least he is subconsciously submitting to the potential eventuality of handcuffs, on him. His confession ensued: “She didn’t have any ability to consent. She had every right to feel violated by that photo.” She is violated by the unwarranted and unbeknownst contact action, Mr. Senator, not the photo per se. Albeit only a comedian at the time of the violation against Ms. Tweeden, Franken’s character behavior pre-existed and persisted.

Despite that half-assed confession, he is still permitted to walk the halls of the Senate complex…while some cops are filleted on the spot for even the remotest possibility of rudeness. How does that equate, especially when we talk of “higher standards” and such? The law enforcers get smacked immediately while the lawmakers get to apologize/deny…and go on about business as usual? Perhaps some violators do return to the crime scene.

Despite that half-assed confession, he is still permitted to walk the halls of the Senate complex…while some cops are filleted on the spot for even the remotest possibility of rudeness.

Similarly, Rep. John Conyers (D – MI) waltzed back into the US House while the Ethics Commission metes out sexual harassment allegations against him. However, as of yesterday, Rep Conyers announced his retirement and endorsed his son as the one who should take over his seat.

Legacy of Settlements

A November 17, 2017 a report published by the Washington Post indicated $17.2 million has been paid out “for 264 settlements and awards to federal employees for violations of various employment rules including sexual harassment.”

The money is disbursed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Compliance. Irony? The Office of Compliance is compensating victims of non-compliant lawmakers and senators. Settlements’ records are kept confidential, per WaPo’s investigation.

Otherwise avoidable misbehavior by elected officials whose accusers are paid plenty of settlement (tax) dollars, money which could be appropriated to veterans first, a class we seem to easily forget. (Credit: Facebook/Veterans First)

I found an argument which shows another side of the sexual misconduct settlement coin. In our US Constitution, Article 1, section 9, clause 7 it reads:

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law: And a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

The last few words sound rather moody, catering the convenience of disclosure. But the preceding language implies public record (access) and accountability (details). More Irony? I found the aforementioned clause upon the United States House of Representatives page titled “Power of the Purse”…no kidding. That’s a real thing among the principled pages of our government playbook.

Before succumbing to stress, Congressman Conyers is incriminated in several such sexual exploits yet denies all claims against him. He simply showed up for work on Monday, right after the Thanksgiving Day hiatus. The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) reportedly did not call for Rep. Conyers to resign, so there was no pressure there. A contrarian report by Politico claims some members of the CBC have asked Rep. Conyers to resign. I can imagine the mixed-messaging and scampering damage control can be stress-inducing.

That’s it? Life goes on because the powers that be deem it…okay? Just turn the page and hope the sordid stories collect dust in the archives?

That’s it? Life goes on because the powers that be deem it…okay? Just turn the page and hope the sordid stories collect dust in the archives?

Sunday’s Coo-Coo Clock

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D – CA) went on record Sunday, November 26, 2017 and made it clear during Meet the Press that she doesn’t think Congressman Conyers ought to resign. Fox News article “Nancy Pelosi the Fake Feminist” levied the notion that Rep. Pelosi seemed to side with her democrat ally despite ostensibly overwhelming evidence —several signed victims’ affidavits, not to mention the paper trail of payments and whatever else investigators unearth— regarding his sexual culpability.


Albeit stammering through the interview being conducted by Chuck Todd, Rep. Pelosi rightly underscores how Rep. Conyers is nevertheless subject to due process. Yes, indeed. And so are alleged victims, and that implies payoffs in exchange for silence. A Conyers accuser said she felt “I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” BuzzFeed reported. Due process?

A Conyers accuser said she felt “I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go.”

Then, in typical see-saw fashion, Ms. Pelosi went the other way, saying, “I find the behavior Ms. Sloan described unacceptable and disappointing. I believe what Ms. Sloan has told me.” Perhaps that’s Pelosi’s on-the-spot brand of due process. I have no idea. But it does seem some extra air and light reached the hair-covered muscle within 24 hours: from Meet the Press to meet the waffle.

Indeed a waffler. Roughly 96 hours after the Meet the Press interview, Rep. Pelosi is recorded saying, “The allegations against Congressman Conyers, as we have learned more since Sunday, are serious, disappointing and very credible. It’s very sad. The brave women who have come forward are owed justice. I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family, and wish them well. However, Congressman Conyers should resign.” How’s that for an about-face after emphasizing any person’s due process?


While we are talking about who is getting away with what, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D – MO) warrants some scrutiny for allegedly attempting to deliberately conceal her air-travel on her plane while using American taxpayer dollars to keep it airborne. The Washington Free Beacon compiled a brief dubious history regarding Sen. McCaskill’ s air-flight expenses (taxes), and her seeming desire to fly like black ops, having it her way with “power of the purse.”

In his investigative report, Brent Scher wrote, “The company hired by McCaskill to operate the plane, a 2009 Pilatus PC-12/47E, wrote to the FAA earlier this year in April to ask that the tracking information on the plane be blocked from the public, according to email records obtained by the Washington Free Beacon through a Freedom of Information Act request.”

No biggie, right? Just gonna do some clandestine flying around at your expense…nothing to see here.

Preposterous Rhinoceros

So what makes these poles so special? What is the difference between elected federal officials and any employee whose conduct falls into question with their employer? Upon election, members of the House and Senate take an oath whereby most other professions in America do not.

The oath used today has not changed since 1966 and is prescribed in Title 5, § 3331 of the United States Code. It reads:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. [emphasis added]”

According to common sense, it should also have an excerpt saying “…and I shall keep my hands to myself at all times” or something similar.

Poles get to slide right back in while cops (and other occupations) are administratively ordered to sit it out, often without badge, and a gun, and at times, without compensation. Do politicians get docked like that? Anti-police types have a field day over those instances. Due process is made into dung, thanks to the court of public opinion.

When does this confluence of horned rhinos and their alleged misdeeds in the political arena end? I’m all for due process, that is a given. But the number of allegations against politicians is increasing while the victim ratio is too exponential.  What are the odds of false accusers being the larger number?

I get false accusations. Been on the receiving end of bloated yet baseless barking. Cops witness this often enough, often the targets of erroneous fiction gurus. Nevertheless, due process has merit, even when it seems fractured. Without it, well…you get the picture.

I credit Sen. Franken only with tucking tail and seeking redemption, although I do not believe he should remain behind a D.C. desk while justice courses through the Senate vein. His apologetic words are vacuous without actions, to include stepping aside.

His apologetic words are vacuous without actions, to include stepping aside.

Fox News writer Lauren DeBellis Appell pegged it pointedly when she wrote:

“This is how it ends. If these members of Congress know their behavior is no longer enabled, their behavior stops. Taxpayers will no longer have to fund this disgusting juvenile behavior and women will know they actually have advocates on Capitol Hill who want to empower them, instead of pre-programmed feminists who have become politicized by their party affiliation and don’t bother to fact-check the fiction that comes out of their mouth.”

Synonymous with Ms. Appell’s statement is a report from The Hill titled “Senate women: Rules on harassment must change” citing the “Senate’s rules for preventing sexual harassment were written to protect men and need to be changed as soon as possible.”

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R – WV) said, “The one thing I was disturbed about in the Conyers thing is that he was allowed to use his Members’ Representational Allowance to pay that settlement and I think that’s something we’re going to take a look at.” Does that “Allowance” sound like a backdoor quasi-bank to stifle scandal and acquiesce accusers?

It is disheartening that some folks became rich by way of being victimized by elected officials while it is equally unsettling that such politicos waltz about government facilities, unbridled, deserving of contempt.

See something. Say something. And keep hands busy doing the people’s will: Preserving the United States Constitution.

No taxpayer should have to beckon accountability from government. No government official should ever assume such a menial stance regarding inherent responsibilities to voters…and staff.

Is being civilized too much to ask?

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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